new release roundup: Oh, the Underwhelm-ment

Peter, Bjorn, & John – Living Thing

Super Furry Animals – Dark Days/Light Years
Welsh supervillians glass-blow ELO-meets-Elephant6-collective magic pop. They release oodles of albums, so I just picked this one. The others might be as good, or just marginally different depending on your mood. Best moment: “The Very Best of Neil Diamond,” with its Bollywood-meets-Love nuttiness, tops most of their catalogue.

U2 – No Line on the Horizon

Completely un-listen-able noise pollution.

The Animals – Deluxe BBC Files (1964-1967)
Don’t sleep on the Animals. Their version of “Paint it Black” is nuts, and Eric Burdon was maybe Europe’s best blues howler for these short years. I always wished the Who had hired him.

Doom – Born Like This

I love the guy, but I usually end up breaking out my KMD vinyl. Sue me, I’m old. And yet all the skillz in the world, which Doom has, can’t justify another tired sampling of ESG. Unless they got paid.

Here We Go Magic – Here We Go Magic
Love this. Folk songwriting shot through analog vs. electro instrumental breakdowns. It creates a world.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Why There are Mountains
It was a good thing for music when the Blind Melon singer died. Always remember that.

The Strange Boys -And Girls Club

It’s working on me, in a way I like. Young bucks could do worse than worship Dylan’s Highway 66 sound with a sharp ear for Bob’s guitar playing. Reminds me of the Deadly Snakes, at times. Jack Oblivion, meet your next production job.

Art Brut – Art Brut Vs. Satan

Like Super Furry Animals, Art Brut requires your ownership of only one album. Sigh. This one is a as good (or boring) as the others, but I declare myself sweet on it for a tongue-in-cheek ‘Mats mash note (“The Replacements,”) where hilarity results when a music geek’s dilemma repeats as fiery drama: “second-hand records/ are cheaper /Reissue cds – /extra tracks!”

Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP

Vernon repents for the song-less wankery of “For Emma” with a stunner of a title track that is better than all of his previous albums, under any name, put together, and better than anything else you can name. It might be my ‘track of the year” if I wasn’t too lazy each year to make sure I had such a track of the year.

Condo Fucks – Fuckbook
A band named after yuppie twerps infiltrating Yo La Tengo’s bohemian dream of Hoboken? I love you, YLT, and did a year or so of hard living as your neighbor there, but the art-town dream died with those tenement fires set by landlords in the late eighties. Thanks for this raucous, growling set of covers. Play more Slade, always.

The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love

This getting a bit Spinal Tap. And who has the time for an infrequently beautiful and complex concept album? The next one better be 12 pop singles, Meloy, or you’re dead to me.

Davila 666 – s/t

Not new, but I slept on it and saw them open recently for the Reigning Sound. 6 or 7 dudes (all related?) of Puerto Rican descent, haling from Oakland I think, concerned with writing clean but hungry garage pop. If you can’t dig the language barrier, it doesn’t matter. Everything’s catchy. On In the Red, too. Hope this helps them cash in.

Grizzly Bear – Vaeckatimest

Pitchfreak is going to spill their coffee all over themselves for this (8.8 or above), and justifiably so, since no one currently sounds like Grizzly Bear, whose crystalline, melodic waltzes approximate a dream you had in which the Alan Parsons Project was covering mid-career Brian Eno in the front room of an abandoned house in rural Maine. “Ready, Able” is another track of the year contender.

Bonnie Prince Billy -Beware
I know, I know, he’s top shelf when compared to the riff raff, but I can’t help wondering if WO is stretching himself too thin. Great Americana near-country, yes, but if I close my eyes you could tell me this is one of his last two BPB albums. I do wish he’d act more (see “Old Joy” or Kanye videos.)

The Boy Least Likely Too – The Law of the Playground
Volkswagon commercial: Scottish pop!

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

It’s over.

Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

Oh, the horror of underwhelm-ment. After this, to conserve my love for Ms. Case’s career, I imagine I’m an innocent teenage girl discovering Case’s music for the first time via Middle Cyclone’s swirling, NPR-ready folk-dirges, which sound like early PIL in comparison to my Miley Cyrus mp3s. Case is still the best singer I’ve seen live, though. Bring back the Sadies, lady?

Tim Hecker-An Imaginary Country
Ambient instrumental landscapes from their best practitioner working today. But sounds like all analog instruments. Long live Seefeel, if that’s why.

Dan Deacon -Bromst

You’re not Brian Eno yet, Dan, and some tracks come closer to homage than influence. But this is a step ahead for Deacon, as far as complex pop with an electronic base, because I can’t hear the computers at all this time. If I close my eyes.

Grand Duchy – Petit Fours
Ultimately unsuccessful but intriguing effort by Black Francis to craft a weird, Psychedelic Furs-like album of duets and processed guitar.

Jeremy Jay – Slow Dance
I wanna like this more than I can. Part Jonathan Richman, part Suicide, Jay can play some fine guitar but doesn’t vary his demo-like spookiness with any levity or melodic variation. Hiring a female backing vocalist and horns might do the trick.

Bat for Lashes – Two Suns

Singer Natasha Khan could one day be bigger than deities, but her arranging partner ain’t no slouch himself; imagine Sandy Denny surviving death and making a Kate Bush record in 1985.

Papercuts – You Can Have What you Want

“Future Primitive” is one of the few songs this year I kept on repeat. Not much else here will leap out of the speakers, but psych-folk never really offends, either.

Junior Boys – Begone Dull Care

See title, middle word.

Death -For the Whole World to See

Believe the hype. The 1975 missing link between the MC5 and Bad Brains, although there is something to be said for the Saints and Ramones getting here first. But Death reminds me of Squirrel Bait, weirdly, and they’re angrier than latter two bands; hence MC5 & Bad Brains comparisons. Mind-blowing to be convinced it was recorded when they say it was.


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